Peanut Butter & Doing Good

It’s been a busy week for our family, and we’re headed out the door in a few minutes for Bean to hopefully give away some more peanut butter. I’ll return and report in a bit, but for now, if you’d like to read about what’s going on, you can check:

The Washington Post
The New York Post
People Magazine
The Deseret News
The Today Show

I’ve actually got THREE pages of links to articles, from as far away as New Zealand. It’s INSANE and wonderful, in the middle of some really heavy times, people can be so good, and we are all craving some spots of light.


Hot Water

screen shot 2019-01-15 at 11.16.36 pmTonight I was cold—too cold for my socks or my space heater to fill. I turn the steamy shower on, and by the nightlight, I take my contacts out. My husbands lenses fizz quietly to themselves from their little hydrogen peroxide cylinder, but mine are done and I leave them to curl into little blue-tinged crescents on the counter. Delicate like glass.

I like night showers, I like the way the hot water falls on me in the dark. I like the heavy white noise that fills my ears and stops my anxious thoughts. Just the warm water, the dark, and my skin slowly warming and tingling back to life. I like the slippery bar of soap,  and I like the way my skin feels scrubbed and clean. The steam now smells of lavender and vaguely of home. I can see out the widow into he inky blackness, the glowing snow reflecting the dim moon in my backyard.

The cost of water edges into my calm, and I feel guilty for the water bill that the furlough means we cannot pay. I shut the tap off, and wrap myself in the heavy cotton robe hanging on a simple nail in the windowsill. I have lived in this house for five years, and I have replaced everything, but I like that small little nail.

I like the gentle smudges of black around my eyes, as I rub a circle clear on the mirror and lean in, my myopic eyes shift their focus. With my contacts, I cannot see close. Without them, I lean in and everything is clear and bright. The details of my skin are fascinating for a brief moment. I like the juxtaposition of my in/ability to focus. It feels right.

The blowdryer offers up a second wave of white noise, blocking out all the worries, and I like that. My warm hair blows around my like a tangled halo, soft and a little wild, and I like that too.

I leave the robe draped over my chair, and shrug on my grey sweater, over my grey stripped nightgown. My kids would laugh, calling this my uniform. I like grey a ridiculous amount—it’s my comfort color, and right now, it’s a good thing.

My husband sits in his chair by the window, a book folded in his lap, a pile of clean laundry with him in the chair. He stares off in the middle distance, his face half shadowed from the inadequate reading lamp on a rickety table I love and he’s baffled by. He spent the day calling our utilities, our insurance companies, our mortgage company; all the bills typical of any family of six people. He wanders around the house, helpless to do anything, helpless to contribute to the work to which he’s dedicated his professional life. We’re trying to make the money leftover from December last through January, while not knowing if it will have to be stretched even further.

I like the little reprieves we can find. Even if it’s just hot water.

What a Shutdown Means


DC Metro Train Car, Friday 11 January 2019

We’re two weeks into 2019 and we’re three weeks into the federal shut-down. I’m starting to think until the ripples reach the rest of the country, that a lot of folks don’t quite understand what that means.

I don’t want to fixate on things too much, but it’s serious for the nearly million families affected, and it’s going to be even more serious as the financial and social ripples spread out. Right now, in the Northern Virginia area where we live, and where employment is heavily, heavily federal, what it means is this…

The majority of Federal employees aren’t what people imagine when they listen to the news. It’s not the lobbyists on Capital Hill, or the special interest lawyers. In DC, it’s Smithsonian employees, curators, archivists preserving our national heritage. It’s the cafeterias, gift shops and janitorial services in each of the many national museums and other federal buildings. It’s the tourist economy around the entire National Mall. It’s the monuments themselves, which are fenced off and not available to visit. It’s the vendors who line downtown DC, which is normally hustling, regardless of the month. It’s FBI agents investigating all manor of crimes, State Department professionals who work to ensure world stability, food inspectors making sure regulations are followed, scientists with years-long research projects, transit authorities, passenger and freight rail safety and inspections, trucking and mass transport, and it’s the tragedy of National Parks that might be irreparably damaged in some cases.

It’s the air traffic controllers at every single airport in the country. They are “essential” so they are reporting for duty every day, but they are not being paid. That’s a pretty damn important job for people who are feeling burnt out and stressed, having last made money before Christmas, and trying to figure out how they’re going to feed their families and pay their bills. The same for every TSA agent in every airport. “Essential” and also working without pay–and those are not high-paying jobs. Mo, who you know and love, has worked every day, including Christmas Day, is a single mother of three, and has received no pay. Her former husband is also a federal employee and is also not being paid, so there is literally no support.

Let’s not forget the foreign service members who are reporting for duty in far reaching countries, who are not always safe, and who sometimes have with their families with them, who are far from home and also not being paid.

Repeat this story half a million times. The other half a million are waiting at home, desperate to get back to vital work they have pending, projects that have been in the works for years, research that may now be compromised, and far-reaching medical testing that is in jeopardy

In the Northern Virginia area, as this shutdown drags on, our Metro transit trains are empty, and we are starting to see small businesses fail. Restaurants are deserted, grocery store shelves are low on products. Maid services, yard services, “extras” are being cut, and the economy is shrinking. Some of this might come back when things eventually open, but some of our communities are irreparably damaged.

My own husband has three college degrees and a decade and a half of federal service. Like so many people in our area, he chose federal service out of love for his country, despite often higher salaries in the private sector. He’s a highly trained specialist, and trust me, you may not know what he does, but you want him and agents like him doing their jobs.

Federal agents cannot strike. If a federal agent who is deemed “essential” doesn’t show up for their job, they don’t just loose their job (and possible seniority and retirement), but an arrest warrant is issued for them. So whatever you’ve been hearing on the news, or facebook, or from your loud uncle is not likely the whole story.

And none of this even touches on the emotional upwelling of fear and trauma this brings up for children (and parents, to be frank) who have already lived through loss, housing instability and food insecurity. We don’t know how we’re going to pay our bills—and neither do most other people in our area. Consider the ripples.

And I didn’t even get to foodstamps, WIC and other programs protecting the most very vulnerable among us. And that 800,000 number is the actual employees. In our family, my husband supports us and four children. If you extrapolate that out, the number of people being harmed and left without means of support is horrifying.

The United States of America needs to be up and functioning. People need to grasp how important those many professional, highly trained and dedicated civil servants are not just for our own health, safety and stability—but for the stability of the entire world.